I’ve been writing about health for years and have coached dozens of women through their health journeys. In my experience, I’ve learned that nothing is as clickable or buzzworthy as weight loss tips. However, what makes headlines doesn’t usually pan out in everyday life, and the universal obsession with weight loss is not a sign that we’re prioritizing our health but rather that we don’t feel worthy as we are. If you clicked on this article expecting the usual “Eat less sugar” or “Do a HIIT workout” tips, know that that is not what this is. This is not your typical weight loss article you’ll read through and feel discouraged by at the end or forget to actually apply to your life.
And that’s because Dr. Adrienne Youdim is not your typical weight loss specialist. She isn’t telling her patients to count calories or work out more as a solution. Instead, she focuses on the “why” behind both the desire to lose weight and the inability to lose weight to help each patient achieve self-love and lasting healthy habits. Dr. Youdim is an internist who specializes in weight loss and nutrition and served as the medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Center for Weight Loss before opening up her own private practice in Beverly Hills. Read: She’s helped a lot of patients achieve (and maintain) a healthy weight.
As if her long list of credentials and experience wasn’t enough, she’s also the author of the book Hungry For More, which explains how our emotions or life circumstances affect weight. While she’s a weight loss expert on paper, she’s not like any other weight loss expert. She not only changes her patients’ numbers on the scale but also changes their lives. Struggling with reaching the weight you want to be? Read on for Dr. Youdim’s best tips to achieving your best self.
1. Start with mindset
When you want to change your weight, what’s the first thing you do? Do you start cutting out sugars or processed carbs or increasing your workouts? Dr. Youdim suggested that before any tangible goal, habit, or action, you must work on mindset first if you want to achieve your goal weight (and then sustain it). “How we approach a habit is so critical to our ability to change in a durable or lasting way,” she said. “Without a proper mindset to address the process, the ups and downs, the waning motivation, the negative self-talk, and all the other mental barriers we create, we will not be able to maintain the necessary changes that result in healthy weight.”
First, identify why you want to change your weight. Is it to feel best in your body, to live a long and happy life, or to get more energy? Coming back to this core motivation frequently will help you stay inspired and make changes based on self-love instead of self-consciousness (more on that below). But if your reasons have more to do with not feeling enough as you are, disliking your body, or because someone else told you you have to, you won’t achieve what you’re looking to feel, no matter what pant size you get to.
2. Identify the “why” behind your eating patterns
If you feel disconnected from your eating habits, are unable to control yourself, or eat more than you know you need, the problem is not your “laziness” or “lack of willpower.” The problem is that you’re suppressing an emotional need that you’re subconsciously using food to attempt to soothe. In fact, Dr. Youdim wrote an entire book about the emotional reasons most of us eat a certain way or have certain cravings. “So many of us use food to soothe—this is actually hardwired in our neurobiology,” Dr. Youdim explained. You might think you’re craving a donut or absolutely need a slice of pizza, but your body is actually trying to tell you it needs something else, whether it’s a break, stress relief, emotional comfort, or something deeper. “Know what you are trying to soothe with food. We need to identify what is at the root of our ‘hunger.’ What are you truly hungry for?”
We need to identify what is at the root of our ‘hunger.’ What are you truly hungry for?
3. Focus on your routine
Imagine this: You’ve (finally) reached your goal weight, so you become less conscious about keeping up those healthy habits and then are frustrated when your body goes back to its old ways. Or maybe you eat more plants, exercise more, and prioritize sleep for a week, and then you get annoyed and stop because you saw no changes after those seven days. Or you’ve tried diet after diets for years, always hop onto different workouts, and never stick to your meditation practice. Sound familiar? The key you might be missing is routine.
“Routine is critical. It allows us to show up for ourselves, even when we don’t feel like it. Every practice that helps us achieve a goal weight help us maintain healthy weight as well.” Be patient with your body. Know that physical changes take time, and you should find comfort instead of frustration in the practices you do for your body. Turn practices that make your body feel good into habits, and give your body some consistency.
4. Stop restricting
In the past, you might have restricted calories or food groups in order to lose weight. You might have tracked macronutrients in an app or cut out dairy or sugar, all in the name of a few less pounds. Maybe your doctor or nutritionist even told you to restrict, so you were convinced it was a healthy way to lose weight rather than a detrimental practice that could cause weight gain or disordered eating. In reality, restricting and limiting might be stopping you from achieving your health goals. “Restriction invariably makes us want to do the very thing we are trying to restrict: It focuses attention on scarcity, which makes the body thinks it needs more of that food. Restriction also causes hunger, which is just not sustainable,” Dr. Youdim said.
So how do you eat for weight loss instead? “I tell my clients and patients to eat in terms of abundance. Eat so much of what serves you, so that you have less room for what doesn’t.” Yes, that means add more plants to every meal, and you’ll be subconsciously crowding out the foods that don’t make you feel good. Most importantly, eat intuitively rather than based on numbers or percentages.
5. Eat your protein
Between Keto Diet, low-carb, high-fiber, and everything in between, there’s a lot of confusion over the best type of diet and what percentage of macronutrients is best for reaching a goal weight. While the most important step for actually being healthy is to stop worrying so much about dieting and percentages (see #4), Dr. Youdim said that a common issue she sees with her patients is not enough protein. “Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and also helps preserve muscle mass, which then preserves a healthy metabolism,” she said. But before you pull out your macronutrient-tracking app and load up on protein powders, focus on adding more whole foods and nutrient-rich plants to your diet while also eating a balance of clean protein sources like fish, chicken, eggs, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, etc.
6. Improve your sleep and stress levels
If the only factors you’ve considered in your weight loss journey are nutrition and fitness, you’re missing out on key players that can make or break reaching (and keeping) your goal weight. Stress levels and sleep are just as important as food and exercise when it comes to being healthy and reaching a healthy weight. But don’t believe me: Ask Dr. Youdim. “Sleep is crucial. Countless studies show that sleep deprivation results in surging hunger hormones, greater appetite for calorie-dense foods, and weight gain. Stress is also a huge contributor, and it affects our hunger too, both physiologic and emotional.” Your health plan and wellness routine need to include a sleep-care routine and stress-relief plan (whether its daily meditation, weekly therapy, or all of the above).
You don’t accept your body once when you reach certain health goals. You can reach health goals because you accept and love your body.
7. Love yourself as you are now (no, really)
While this might sound like some fluffy self-help advice your mom used to tell you in middle school, it is actually tangible, concrete advice to reach your goal weight. “We can want to change our bodies and still accept ourselves as we are in this moment,” Dr. Youdim explained. “This is critical because we’ll sabotage ourselves if we don’t accept ourselves. Picture this: You get on a scale and are disappointed at the results. If you accept yourself and hold that disappointment with compassion, you’ll be able to focus your attention on the habits you want to adopt. If you don’t accept yourself (i.e. you get mad at yourself, put yourself down, or feel hopeless), you’re more likely to throw in the towel.”
In other words, you don’t accept your body once when you reach certain health goals; you can reach health goals because you accept and love your body as it is right now. Love yourself first, and then make changes or form habits because you know what your body deserves. For tips on where to start with self-love and body acceptance, click here for expert advice or here for 10 ways to love yourself more.
This article is intended to provide inspiration to help you reach your health goals, not as treatment for an eating disorder. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or with disordered thoughts or behaviors regarding food and eating, please seek help. Call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 for support, reach out to a qualified medical professional, or, for a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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